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Is Indian Media Biased When Reporting On Kashmir?

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The use of media to propagate disinformation and propaganda finds its roots in the 17th century, and in the course of years it has acquired a pretty terrible reputation. Turning back the pages of history, in November 1941, the Nazi regime anticipated that some Germans will find out the truth that disabled war veterans, prominent musicians, and artist Jews were sent to the East to perform laborious tasks. They cynically publicized the existence of Theresienstadtwhere they claimed that Jews of Germany, Austria, and the Czech lands were kept as a residential community. The Nazi officials professed publicly that in these places elderly Jews could retire and live peacefully. This fiction was invented for domestic consumption within the Greater German Reich. In reality, it served as a transit camp for deportations to ghettos and killing centers in German-occupied Poland, Baltic states and Belarussia.

Head of the Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbles, a high ranking officer in the Hitler dictatorship, set up a separate department that solely dealt with newspapers. He invigilated the content of every newspaper and among them was Volkischer Beobachter translated as Racial Observer. It was the principal daily newspaper and was used to sell whatever Goebbels wanted. The newspaper lauded anti-semitism, anti-liberalism, and completely mirrored the ideology of Adolf Hitler. The paper gave space to those stories which praised the regime, anything with an opposing view was outrightly rejected.

Apart from Germany, the French media refused to cover the despotism, absolute oppression and scourge of brutalities performed by rulers of country over the impoverished Algerian society. The perception haunts their media till date.

The magic of media propaganda works at a psychological level. Various techniques are used to scheme and channelise the information in a way to influence behavioural attitude, to design a certain paradigm about a phenomenon, to frame the mental inclination, to persuade, to support and to denounce a certain ideology.

As McCombs and Shaw wrote in their Agenda-setting theory: “media sets the public agenda, in the sense that they may not exactly tell you what to think, but they may tell you what to think about.

Also, Goffman, an American Sociologist in his article, under the title of Frame Analysis writes: “media outlets not only tell the audience what to think about (agenda-setting theory), but also how to think about that issue (second level agenda setting, framing theory).

Our generation has also witnessed the manipulation of media to distort, decontextualise, and falsify the various happenings on the ground. Whether that is the campaign initiated by western media to cultivate the belief in the minds of world population that the dictatorial former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, possessed a weapon of mass destruction, later deemed untrue; the media censorship of the brutalities performed by the Israeli defence forces on the innocent Palestinians; the demonisation of Rohingya Muslims by mainstream media of Mynanmar; and the dehumanisation of Kashmiris by the mainstream media of the India.

In 2016, Mynanmar’s most widely known state newspaper compared Rohingya Muslims to human fleas, as a report, quoting the paper, in the Public Radio International states:  “This morally bad group of people are “loathe for their stench and for sucking our blood.” And the nation’s citizenry must constantly be wary of the dangers of detestable human fleas.””

Similarly, Indian media, specifically the electronic medium, is tirelessly busy in colouring the entire population of Kashmir as traitors, terrorists, anti-nationals and a breed that should be damned and doomed. They invariably run news shows and debates that aim at maligning and distorting the very image of a Kashmiri resident. And the role of this half-true, Manichean manifestation of situation in Kashmir is the cause of hatred and extreme dislike towards them outside the state. Not mentioning the evolution of ‘siege mentality’ syndrome, that prevents the Kashmiris, even to roam freely in the other parts of the Indian republic.

Evidently, the conflict areas prove to be a fertile land for the propaganda war machine. Since the State, in order to crush the voice and dissent of a common man, openly directs its proprietary media outlets to criminalise and project him as an enemy of the state. The other private media outlets, mostly owned by people with commercial marketing mentalities, join the state in the race.

The Indian media network, in spite of analysing the basic and grave issues the country faces — unprecedented inflation, malnutrition, starvation, corruption, farmer suicides, human resource development — pull their brains out on issues which in no way concern the interest of the masses. Subjects such as cinema and cricket dominate the broadcasting hours of the media channel. Where Kashmir situation finds scarce attention, hours of prime time is dedicated to ‘inform’ people about the new animals adopted by celebrities, new developments in saas-bahu serials, and much more trash. And this strategy is intentionally used to blur the truth and confuse the public.

The media of our times is a victim of propaganda syndrome. The reason why media does this is explicitly theorized by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, in their article titled, ‘A Propaganda Model’. They believe that, “advertising, concentrated ownership, dependence on government, businessmen, for information, anti-communism has led to this grim picture of mass media.”

The DD Kashmir channel, financed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, is also a fine example of propaganda tool. Since decades, its owners have rigorously advocated for programmes that have largely not only influenced but changed the mental attitude of the Kashmiris. Rather than reporting the ground situation of Kashmir, it has faithfully been active in launching a psychological war against the neighbouring State. Shows like, Sarhad Ke Do Rukh”, “PTV Sach Kya Hai, “Pakistan Reporter”, in which internal matters of another country are deliberated upon, depict the true nature of state sponsored media, it follows that the administration diverges the attention of people from much larger and crucial issues of the state.

On the one hand these media channels have never conducted debates on issues like Kunan Poshpora, nor have they talked about the facts related to Tufail Matoo’s brutal murder by the Indian forces. These channels emotionalise the news of killings of armed forces, but remain dead silent when an innocent youth is mutilated by the CRPF jawans. The mourning of the dead armed personnel is exclusively broadcasted on their channels whereas no information is shown related to the college graduate, Matoo, who was blinded and later succumbed to the pellet injuries.

From sedition charges against separatists to the terrorisation of stone-pelters, everything is taken up on these shows. However, grave violation of human rights, fake encounters, custodial killings that haunt the minds of the inhabitants of valley have never been given an iota of space by these channels.

Everything said, the truth never dies. As rightly said by Aldous Huxley, “Facts don’t cease to exist because they are ignored.”

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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